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It reminds me of what I wanted to become.

Just saw Venus. God, what a film. How can it be so? Here’s a film about a “dirty old man and a slutty girl,” to quote Peter O’Toole himself, and yet it’s not about either of those things. It’s about the incredible drama of aging–despite the sordid details, the creeping decrepitude: there is still the beauty of the human desire to give pleasure, to appreciate beauty, and to dance.

Vanessa Redgrave is surely the most daring actress I’ve ever seen because she intentionally makes herself ugly and allows her fine face to be shot from the worst possible angles. There’s a scene between her and Peter O’Toole that is one of the great love scenes of all time; there’s Peter O’Toole and his old friend, played by Leslie Phillips, literally dancing through the tombstones of their old friends; and of course there is the girl: fresh-faced and fragile, beautifully ignorant, utterly untouched by the refinements of culture or education. I think it walks the line beautifully between Lolita , which I found deeply offensive, and Educating Rita, which I dearly loved.

There is a scene actually filmed at the Garrick Club, a London men’s club particularly favored by actors, in which Leslie Phillips says, with great simplicity, “I love coming here. It reminds me of what I wanted to become.”

That is the great drama of aging. Is it just me, the drama queen? Or are all our lives viewed appropriately through the lenses of archetypal myth and great drama? There’s Manko and Kendra coming of age. And here’s me, coming of old age. In my eyes, both stories have the capacity to be the stuff of great drama. It’s all in the script. When we are old, we’ve seen the passing of what we wanted to become. That’s our heartbreak and our beauty. And when we are young, we don’t yet know what we want to become, or what we will become, and that’s our great hope and our beauty. And I find this drama, this life-creation we’re all making, incredibly, unspeakably beautiful. I love us for our longings, our yearnings, our failures and our incompleteness.

This is where I fail as a Buddhist, I’m afraid. I don’t want to achieve equanimity. I love the drama of the cliff-hangers our lives are. It makes me want to wake up in the morning and find out what’s going to happen next.

P.S. In an email from AE, these helpful words about being equanimous: “To me, it just means that, having fully experienced each thing, you let go of it and return to center and don’t take it as the whole truth about anything.” Well said.

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